Apply the Lessons Learned

With the fire service and others taking this day and weekend to remember the Charleston 9, along with other high profile LODD, I wanted to do something different. I wanted to look at how we can specifically apply the recommendations that were listed in the report on the Charleston Super Sofa Fire.

I am going to do this just one at a time and I will likely take several weeks to cover them all.  It is very likely that some will intermingle with others, and will be covered together.

Today I want to look at pre-incident planning.  For me, this starts with when the building is being built.   In reality, it is a combination of both, during construction and visits and regular intervals.

conduct pre-incident planning inspections of buildings within their jurisdictions to facilitate development of safe fireground strategies and tactics

Light weight, engineered floor joists.

Today, we stopped in on a new restaurant.  As you can see from the photo it is all light weight, engineered construction.

The comment was made that we need not enter this building if it burns.  Well, in an ideal world that is correct.

The fact is is that we just don’t know what we will be tasked with doing if this building catches fire.  We can’t predict what time of day or who will or will not be in it.  What we can do, however, is know what this building is made of and the hazards associated with those materials and products of construction.

We also must be prudent in our tactics when arriving, like lifting ceiling tiles before we get too far in the building, looking for fire running above us.

This visit provided some great information aside from the type of construction and those hazards associated with them.  First, the building is completely sprinklered.  That is a plus.  We located the FDC and the nearest hydrant.  Both good things.

Concealed spaces over the booths.

We found that this concealed space had sprinklers dropped down to the ceiling level, but none were in the space or immediately above it.  An easy place for fire to spread quickly.

As we discussed earlier in the post, most would say we don’t need to enter this building.  In theory I agree, but we never know what we are facing when we arrive.

Something that we learned was that there is an area on the east side of this building, Side D, that is built with dimensional lumber and is sprinklered as well. The roof construction is not truss and the walls are all dimensional studs.  What can we take away from this?

Side D construction was different than the rest of the building.

We discussed that if there needed to be an attempt to make entry, it would be best to try to take a stand from this area. It is not part of the rest of the roof system and will likely hold up a little longer with the dimensional lumber.

Another idea was that RIT would be staged near this entrance if there would happen to be interior crews making a rescue or knocking down what was perceived as a small fire.  They know that there is a straight shot to the middle of the building through a more secure type of construction.

With all that being said, accessibility to the building needs to be looked at; where will multiple units be staged?  Where will you place ladders and are there overhead dangers?

It is important to look at all of these factors to make a good decision based on prior knowledge.  We also understand that Plan A doesn’t always work so have a Plan B ready based on the planning you did on the building.

There are many other components about pre-incident planning that I didn’t mention, but hopefully you get the point.  Get out and visit these sites.  Be involved and have discussions about how you would perform at a fire here.

Above all, don’t let the lives lost at any LODD be lives lost in vain.  Learn from their mistakes, but don’t be critical, we have all screwed up and been lucky enough to get away with it.  Be constructive and train on the recommendations so that you don’t repeat history.

Stay safe and please, never forget those lost in the line of duty.  We owe them our promise to train hard and to learn from them.

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